JUNE 24, 2010 — This is the second of periodic interviews with Dyson Racing principals and drivers for a more personal look inside the team. With twenty-seven years of professional racing history, Dyson Racing has had many notable drivers. One of the originals was Price Cobb, who drove for the team from 1985 through 1988 in forty-nine races. He was victorious in his second race with the team at the 1985 Columbus, OH IMSA race. He won three consecutive Porsche Cups and scored eight victories, four seconds and nine thirds during his Dyson career. Overall, his career spanned twenty-one years and included winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1990 with Jaguar.
How did you get involved with the Dysons?
“It really started when I graduated from high school and my parents knew that I wanted to go racing. They said ‘if that is your choice, please humor us and go to driving school.’ At the time, Bondurant was the big deal – and of course, being young and cocky, I said ‘I don’t need any training, but if you want to pay for it, sure, why not.’
“And that is where I met Rob Dyson along with Emilie. We hit it off right away. We were the fastest in the class – I would argue that he was the fastest. So we got to talking and he knew that I was pursuing formula car racing and I found out he was pursuing sedan racing. I will never forget one day, many years later, he called up and I am working at a Ferrari, Mercedes, Jaguar maintenance shop in Dallas. So anyway, I get this phone call and I did not know who it was at first – and the first words out of his mouth were, ‘so, what kind of shape are you in?’ I am thinking who the heck is this? I finally figured it out it was Rob Dyson, so I replied, ‘I am in magnificent shape.’ And the rest is history. He invited me to test the Porsche 962 at Lime Rock. I had not driven a car in a while and had never driven a car with a roof over my head. It had always been formula cars and nothing with a hair dryer (turbo charger) on it. Quite frankly, I scared myself to death in the 962, but apparently I ran fast enough with times that were competitive to the times that Rob had set in his recent win there with Drake Olson. From then on it was a green light.”
What was Rob like back than?
“He is the same Rob to me even today, even though I know that Rob and his family have great achievements in their lives. He is the guy you would meet on a park bench and just strike up a conversation with. He is a regular Joe – always has been to me – very easygoing and thoroughly enjoyable – that is the guy that I met at Bob Bondurant.”
And how would you rate him as driver?
“I have said this openly to others: he had many outside business interests and my only focus was racing. If he had chosen to focus his energies 100% on racing, guys like myself and Weaver would have been out of a job. He was that good.”
What made him good?
“Clearly there are people born with talent. I had some and Rob had it in spades. He was born with talent. He also had a huge acumen which made him really good in addition to his god-given talents. He had an ability to analyze the production of a race — as it was playing out, he could adjust and play to his own strengths. If I had to say that I learned a great lesson from him, which I believe I did, it was just that. Not long after hooking up with Rob, I figured out that the money shot, that payday is not until the last inch of the last lap – so play the race out and be careful about your choices.”
Your first race with Dyson Racing?
“My first full year was ‘86. I did a couple races in ’85. First race would have been Watkins Glen in ’85. Which really scared the hell out of me. The cars were bloody fast on a bumpy track. I said to myself, ‘maybe I am not meant to do this!’ I had come from cars that weighed, with you in them soaking wet, maybe 1,000 pounds. An Atlantic car has 200 horsepower and a Super Vee about 150 and here I am driving this Porsche 962 that was thunderous with power and it has nothing but lag – oodles of time from when you ask from the helm for more power Scotty, to eventually something happening. You eventually got use to it and adjust, but for the first few times, it was very odd and breathtakingly scary.
“I eventually mastered the 962 – not to say that I was great shakes as a driver, but I could drive my best. My 100% may have been 80% of somebody else, but the car and I saw eye to eye all the time.”
What did it take to get the most out of the 962?
“The American 962, at least in my era, was significantly different than the European ones. We had an air cooled motor, all of which changed, with a single turbo and the lag was tremendous – so it was learning how to time the lag to when power was being produced and you could actually use it and than once committed to the throttle, you never backed off. That was the key: commit one time, 100%.”
Your best race?
“Probably the most memorable was my first trip to Le Mans. When I was a kid and discovering road racing, Le Mans was The Race. And of course being a punk kid from Texas – you had Texans like Shelby and Jim Hall and A.J. Foyt racing at Le Mans. So that was my focus: everything I did in my life was to get to Le Mans. When Rob took me to Le Mans in 1986 with Richard Lloyd’s car and Marui Baldi joined us, it was a dream come true. We had a ball – we received many awards even though we only finished ninth. The main thing was that we finished. It was very memorable and great fun.”
What made Dyson Racing unique?
“My belief is that success there came from the chemistry that Rob worked so hard at. I believe that when the chemistry is right between team members, everyone works much harder because the environment is such a pleasure to be in. To me that was hugely important and I have taken that with me and applied it the rest of my life.”
What would Rob do to foster that environment and get the most out of people?
“The best way to put it was that the team was his extended family. I realized that Rob could support racing in any way that he chose to, but he chose to do it in a matter that we, as team members, could operate in a more loosely structured team and as close friends rather than drill sergeants running a parade of foot soldiers.”
Other co-drivers stand out in your memory?
“James Weaver and John Neilsen to me were the most special humans that I could ever imagine. I have driven with a lot of guys, but these two stand out to me – just head and shoulders above anyone else I have been involved with.”
What made James Weaver special?
“His kindness and his ability. I knew that James was always faster than me. But he was always kind enough to let me have a car that suited me more, so that I would be up to his level. If he had made the car to where he wanted it, I would have been left in the dust. His ability to make sure that we always ran competitively together was very unselfish. It was a lesson I took with me in my racing career: two fast guys are going to more often than not win races as opposed to one blazingly fast and one mediocre.”
What has Rob contributed to racing?
“To me, he is the finest and highest definition of a sportsman racer who has taken on all and beaten them all. I mean there is no other person to my knowledge in America, and you could argue in the world, that has had such a strong commitment to racing as Rob Dyson and never forgetting that it is not his primary business. Think about that for a minute. You think of Reinhold Joest or anyone else that became a pro, that is all they did, so I could not be more proud of guy who with a homegrown group of people could wupp the factory on any given day. I think to me he was the epitome of a sportsman racer, and again I cannot give higher praise than that.”
And when you look back on your career?
“I am one of those people where racing is the past in my life. I am still in the automobile business, but racing is my old life. I don’t tell anybody that I was ever a racer – if somebody finds out and want to talk about it, that is wonderful. That was my past and I had a great time. You know, it is funny how people judge you from the past. I always try to look forward. I have been with Kelly Moss Motorsports for the past couple years. I am doing something I really love with people I really enjoy. I can’t imagine doing anything else. It is what I wake up every day to do.”